Opposition lawmaker Daniel Cummings is again calling on the government to release the latest report on poverty assessment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Tonight, I going to alarm them a little bit more. I am a man of patience you know. I’ve given them warning; I’ve given them time. Tell the people what is in the Poverty Assessment Report,” he told the New Democratic Party’s virtual campaign rally Thursday night.
It was the second time this time that Cummings is calling on the government to release the data, which he has also asked about in Parliament.
On Sept. 9, speaking on his weekly appearance on the New Democratic Party’s radio programme, Cummings said that if the government does not release the data, he will.
He returned to the issue as he addressed the NDPs’ virtual meeting on Thursday, saying:
“Ah going to ask of the prime minister tonight some very specific questions. You and I know that when we go through any government department, whether it be Customs, the police officers, the public service security guards, custom guards, a significant percentage of the people employed by this government within the last 20 years come from certain parts of our country,” he said.
“A significant component — I ain’t talking small amounts you know. Significant components. It’s in that same area that they choose to put the failed geothermal project. I wonder why. And it the same thing they choose to do with the modern medical complex; the wrong place. Why?
“We have seen wherever we go in our constituency the number of families, they complain to me as they do to you that they go to Welfare for assistance and what they do: tell them come back and come back and come back and you still can’t get any assistance,” the West Kingstown FM further said.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not had a poverty assessment since after the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.
And, the data on the latest assessment should have been published since March 2019.
The overall objective of the poverty assessment is to update living conditions statistics and to recommend policies, strategies, action plans and projects that will reduce the extent and severity of poverty.
Cummings said that the national statistics show that half of the nation’s youth can’t find a job.
“But that is a national statistic before COVID. In my constituency, is one in four getting work. Not one in two, one four getting work,” he said.
“I want to ask this man who’s hiding this report what is the figure in that part of the country. We want to know what is the level of unemployment in that part.
“More importantly, what is the level of poverty in that portion of the country and how that compares with the rest of the country?
“Tell the people … You can’t hide it. We understand why, before an election you ‘fraid to let it go. But ah telling yo’ you can’t read that report like I would read it you know, so I giving yo’ ah chance. Tell the people what that report says. Otherwise yo’ going pay the price. Yo’ can run but you can’t hide.”
Cummings’ comments came one day before Minister of National Mobilisation, Frederick Stephenson told a Unity Labour Party virtual campaign rally that in 1995 and 1996 – under the NDP — the poverty headcount was 37.5%.
At the same time, indigence was 25.7%.
The 2007-2008 Poverty Assessment Report, compiled by the same consultants, showed that the poverty headcount was reduced to 30.2% and indigents to 2.9%, the minister said.